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Fukuoka - Greening the Desert (Applying Natural Farming Techniques in Africa)

Fukuoka - Greening the Desert (Applying Natural Farming Techniques in Africa)

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Published by nomadadelviento
Fukuoka - Reverdeciendo el Desierto (Aplicando técnicas de Agricultura Natural en Africa))
Fukuoka - Reverdeciendo el Desierto (Aplicando técnicas de Agricultura Natural en Africa))

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Published by: nomadadelviento on Oct 06, 2009
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06/15/2013

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Greening The Desert
Applying natural farming techniques in Africa
an interview with Masanobu Fukuoka, by Robert and Diane Gilman
 
One of the articles inSustainable Habitat (IC#14) Autumn 1986, Page 37Copyright (c)1986, 1997 by Context Institute|To order this issue ... 
Masanobu Fukuoka is another of the major pioneers of sustainable agriculture who came tothe 2nd International Permaculture Conference. We spoke with him a few days before theconference while he was visiting the Abundant Life Seed Foundation in Port Townsend,Washington.
 
 He likes to say of himself that he has no knowledge, but his books, including 
One-StrawRevolution
and 
The Natural Way of Farming
illustrate that he at least has wisdom. His farming method involves no tillage, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no weeding, no pruning, and remarkably little labor! He accomplishes all this (and high yields) by careful timing of his seeding and careful combinations of plants (polyculture). In short, he has brought the practical art of working with nature to a high level of refinement.
 
 In this interview, he describes how his natural farming methods might be applied to theworld's deserts, based on his experience in Africa during 1985. Translation assistance for theinterview was provided by Katsuyuki Shibata and Hizuru Aoyama.
 
Robert:
What have you learned in your 50 years of work about what people could do withtheir agriculture?
 
Masanobu:
I am a small man, as you can see, but I came to the States with a very bigintention. This small man becomes smaller and smaller, and won't last very long, so I'd like toshare my idea from 50 years ago. My dream is just like a balloon. It could get smaller andsmaller, or it could get bigger and bigger. If it could be said in a brief way, it could be said asthe word "nothingness." In a larger way it could wrap the entire earth.I live on a small mountain doing farming. I don't have any knowledge, I don't do anything.My way of farming is no cultivation, no fertilizer, no chemicals. Ten years ago my book,
OneStraw Revolution,
was published by Rodale Press in the United States. From that point Icouldn't just sleep in the mountains. Seven years ago I took an airplane for the first time in mylife and went to California, Boston, New York City. I was surprised because I thought theUnited States was full of green everywhere, but it looked like death land to me.Then I talked to the head of the desert department at the United Nations about my naturalfarming. He asked me if my natural farming could change the desert of Iraq. He told me todevelop the way of changing the desert to green. At that point I thought that I was a poor farmer and I had no power and no knowledge, so I told him that I couldn't. But from then Istarted thinking that my task is working on the desert.
 
Several years ago, I travelled around Europe. It seemed to me that Europe was very nice and beautiful, with lots of nature preserved. But three feet under the surface I felt desert slowlycoming in. I kept wondering why. I realized it was the mistake they made in agriculture. The beginning of the mistake is from growing meat for the king and wine for the church. Allaround, cow, cow, cow, grape, grape, grape. European and American agriculture started withgrazing cows and growing grapes for the king and the church. They changed nature by doingthis, especially on the hill slopes. Then soil erosion occurs. Only the 20% of the soil in thevalleys remains healthy, and 80% of the land is depleted. Because the land is depleted, theyneed chemical fertilizers and pesticides. United States, Europe, even in Japan, their agriculture started by tilling the land. Cultivation is also related to civilization, and that is the beginning of the mistake. True natural farming uses no cultivation, no plow. Using tractorsand tools destroys the true nature. Trees' biggest enemies are the saw and ax. Soil's biggestenemies are cultivation and plowing. If people don't have those tools, it will be a better life for everything.Since my farm uses no cultivation, no fertilizer, no chemicals, there are many insects andanimals living there within the farm. They use pesticide to kill a certain kind of pest, and thatdestroys the balance of nature. If we allow it to be completely free, a perfect nature will come back.
Robert:
 How have you applied your method to the deserts?
 
Masanobu:
Chemical agriculture can't change the desert. Even if they have a tractor and a bigirrigation system, they are not able to do it. I came to the realization that to make the desertgreen requires natural farming. The method is very simple. You just need to sow seeds in thedesert. Here is a picture of experimentation in Ethiopia. This area was beautiful 90 years ago,and now it looks like the desert in Colorado. I gave seeds for 100 varieties of plants to peoplein Ethiopia and Somalia. Children planted seeds, and watered them for three days. Because of high temperature and not having water, the root goes down quickly. Now the large Daikonradishes are growing there. People think there isn't any water in the desert, but even inSomalia and Ethiopia, they have a big river. It is not that they do not have water; the water  just stays underneath the earth. They find the water under 6 to 12 feet.
Diane:
 Do you just use water to germinate the seeds, and then the plants are on their own?
 
Masanobu:
They still need water, like after ten days and after a month, but you should notwater too much, so that the root grows deep. People have home gardens in Somalia thesedays.The project started with the help of UNESCO with a large amount of money, but there areonly a couple of people doing the experiment right now. These young people from Tokyodon't know much about farming. I think it is better to send seeds to people in Somalia andEthiopia, rather than sending milk and flour, but there isn't any way to send them. People inEthiopia and Somalia can sow seeds, even children can do that. But the African governments,the United States, Italy, France, they don't send seeds, they only send immediate food andclothing. The African government is discouraging home gardens and small farming. Duringthe last 100 years, garden seed has become scarce.
Diane:
Why do these governments do this?
 
 
Masanobu:
The African governments and the United States government want people to growcoffee, tea, cotton, peanuts, sugar - only five or six varieties to export and make money.Vegetables are just food, they don't bring in any money. They say they will provide corn andgrain, so people don't have to grow their own vegetables.
Robert:
 Do we, in the United States, have the type of seeds that would grow well in these parts of Africa?
 
Masanobu:
As a matter of fact, I saw quite a few plants including vegetables, ornamentals,and grains here in this town (Port Townsend) this morning that would grow in the desert.Something like Daikon radish even grows better over there than in my fields, and also thingslike amaranth and succulents grow very well.
Robert:
So if people in the United States and Japan and Europe wanted to help the people in Africa and reduce the desert, would you suggest that they send seeds?
 
Masanobu:
When I was in Somalia, I thought, if there are ten farmers, one truck, and seeds,then it would be so easy to help the people there. They don't have any greens for half of theyear, they don't have any vitamins, and so of course they get sick. They have even forgottenhow to eat vegetables. They just eat the leaves and not the edible root portion.I went to the Olympic National Park yesterday. I was very amazed and I almost cried. There,the soil was alive! The mountain looked like the bed of God. The forest seems alive,something you don't find even in Europe. The redwoods in California and the Frenchmeadows are beautiful, but this is the best! People who live around here have water andfirewood and trees. This is like a garden of Eden. If people are truly happy, this place is a realUtopia.The people in the deserts have only a cup and a knife and a pot. Some families don't evenhave a knife, so they have to throw rocks to cut the wood, and they have to carry that for amile or more. I was very impressed by seeing this beautiful area, but at the same time myheart aches because of thinking about the people in the desert. The difference is like heavenand hell. I think the world is coming to a very dangerous point. The United States has the power to destroy the world but also to help the world. I wonder if people in this countryrealize that the United States is helping the people in Somalia but also killing them. Makingthem grow coffee, sugar and giving them food. The Japanese government is the same way. Itgives them clothes, and the Italian government gives them macaroni. The United States istrying to make them bread eaters. The people in Ethiopia cook rice, barley and vegetables.They are happy being small farmers. The United States government is telling them to work,work, like slaves on a big farm, growing coffee. The United States is telling them that theycan make money and be happy that way.A Japanese college professor that went to Somalia and Ethiopia said this is the hell of theworld. I said, "No, this is the entrance to heaven." Those people have no money, no food, butthey are very happy. The reason they are very happy is that they don't have schools or teachers. They are happy carrying water, happy cutting the wood. It is not a hard thing for them to do; they truly enjoy doing that. Between noon and three it is very hot, but other thanthat, there is a breeze, and there are not flies or mosquitoes.

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